Tuesday, November 04, 2008

A Welshman in New York

Fingers crossed that Joe Calzaghe's career closing fight at the Garden this Saturday will prove more successful than Jimmy Wilde's defeat by Pancho Villa at the Polo Grounds some 85 years ago. Wilde had come out of a nearly three year retirement to take on the Filipino boxer and was a shadow of his former self. Nat Fleischer, who was, of course, at ringside, wrote "Never ... did a champion pass more gloriously than did Wilde that night." By common consent the greatest flyweight of all time, Ring magazine ranked the tiny Welshman pound for pound the third best puncher in boxing history, behind Joe Louis and Sam Langford.

Now it's a fact that most Welsh families with the surname Wilde have their roots in Radnorshire and a little investigation found Wilde's family in the 1901 census, where they were all recorded as speaking no English. An exaggeration no doubt, but interesting light on the strength of the Welsh language in East Glamorgan before the First World War. Unfortunately I could trace the Wilde family no further back than the 1891 census where Jimmy's father was a guest at Treharris police station. In the cells! So the search for a Radnorian connection will have to wait for another day.

UPDATE: Duffy was a no show but Joe Calzaghe got off the canvas in the first round to win the next eleven and the contest. Career ending? Maybe not. Oh and why did the hopeless Western Mail choose to lead its Saturday front page with a no-account Rugby match?

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